The attempted military coup in Turkey serves to remind Americans of two important facts: First, that Americans are legally obligated to fight and die for that country’s dictatorial regime and, second, that the position taken by the coup leaders is no different from that taken by America’s national-security establishment.
While Turkey’s president, Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, has been democratically elected, the fact is that he is a brutal dictator, one who has been jailing journalists and most anyone who dares to criticize him. There is no doubt that he will use the coup crisis to fortify his dictatorial rule over the Turkish citizenry. In fact, he’s already using the coup attempt as an opportunity to purge hundreds of judges from Turkey’s judicial system.
It’s a classic case of where democracy does not equal freedom. The Turkish people have elected a man who wields and exercises brutal dictatorial powers.
That’s the regime that the American people are legally obligated to fight and die for, thanks to that old Cold War dinosaur-like organization called NATO. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, the United States must come to its defense militarily if some other country initiates a war against Turkey. While U.S. national-security state officials would undoubtedly term such a war as defending the “freedom” of the Turkish people, it would be really just fighting and dying for a brutal and tyrannical dictatorship, one that permits the U.S. national-security establishment to use as a base for bombing and killing people in the Middle East.
Needless to say, Erdogan is accusing the military coup leaders of being traitors, but that’s not the way they see it. They consider themselves patriots. Why? In the minds of the coup leaders, they were attempting to save the nation from Erdogan’s tyranny.
Erdogan, of course, has a point: The Turkish national-security establishment’s action was illegal, given that the country’s constitution does not authorize a coup, not even to protect national security.
But the discomforting fact is that as a practical matter, once a nation adopts a national-security state type of governmental system, it fundamentally alters the constitutional order by virtue of the overwhelming power that resides in the national-security section of the government. By virtue of that power, the national-security branch inevitably comes to the conclusion that its job is to protect national security, including when a president initiates policies that the national-security branch concludes are a threat to national security.What lots of Americans fail to realize is that given the Cold War transformation of the U.S. government into a national-security state, the mindset of the U.S. national-security branch of the federal government — i.e., the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA — is no different from that of the Turkish coup leaders.
That is, like their counterparts in the Turkish national-security establishment, the members of the U.S. national-security establishment also believe that it is their responsibility, no matter what the Constitution says, to protect national security from a president whose policies are posing a grave threat to national security. The notion is that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Thus, if a president’s policies are taking a country down, the national-security part of the government believes that the responsibility for saving the country lies with it.
How do we know this?
Recall the Chilean coup in 1973. The Chilean people had democratically elected a socialist-communist named Salvador Allende. The U.S. national-security establishment, which was dead-set on getting rid of the democratically elected Allende, taught their counterparts in the Chilean national-security establishment that they had a moral duty to save the country from Allende by removing him from office. As far as the U.S. national-security establishment was concerned, the Chilean constitution was irrelevant. The Chilean national-security establishment’s job was to protect national security, especially from a president whose policies posed a grave threat to national security.
Indeed, when the head of the Chilean armed forces, Gen. Rene Schneider, objected to the U.S. government’s wishes for a coup, the CIA simply conspired to have terrorist thugs kidnap him and remove him from the scene so that he couldn’t make any more trouble for the United States. Once Schneider was assassinated during the kidnapping attempt, the U.S. national-security establishment continued to exhort their Chilean counterparts that they had a moral duty to save the country by removing Allende from power, which they did violently on September 11, 1973.
Even today, there are multitudes of U.S. and Chilean conservatives who support what the Chilean national-security establishment did in protecting national security by removing Allende from power. In doing so, they always say that a nation’s constitution is not a suicide pact and that it’s the responsibility of a government’s national-security establishment to remove a president whose policies are imperiling the country and replace him with someone else. They say that notwithstanding what the constitution says, the final arbiter of what constitutes a threat to national-security lies with the national-security branch of the government.
Whether Americans realize it or not, that’s the type of government we live under and have lived under since the late 1940s, when the U.S. government was converted into a national-security state. Perhaps that’s why no president since Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy has dared to challenge the existence and power of the U.S. national-security state, not even post-Cold War presidents.
Eisenhower, of course, had pointed out how the military-industrial complex had fundamentally altered America’s governmental system and now posed a grave threat to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people.
By the time he was assassinated, Kennedy had lost all trust in the national-security establishment and had decided to negotiate with the Soviets and Cubans to bring an end to the Cold War, a policy that U.S. national-security state officials (and the American right-wing) considered was naïve, dangerous, and treasonous, in that it would lead, they believed, directly to a communist victory over the United States.
Needless to say, Kennedy’s policy also threatened the continued existence of the entire Cold War national-security establishment and what would become in subsequent years a massive, sprawling military and intelligence establishment with ever-growing military largess to millions of people within the military-industrial complex.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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